I am a Millennial. I love my job. I love my co-workers. I am lucky enough to work for a company that allows me to be just that; a Millennial. Every day, I get up and I go to work where I am greeted by an environment that allows me to work myself out of a job (or into a new one). Every day I am encouraged, challenged, coached and generally supported. Like I said, I am lucky.
My intent is not to talk about how wonderful my job is, but to paint a picture of the environment I get to work, live and dream in.
While all generations have certain stereotypes they carry, I think the biggest stereotype given to my generation is their lack of commitment to a job or company. We are a generation more likely to change jobs or careers, move their families to another place or take a pay cut in order to find a job that will give us flexibility, advancement, culture and fulfillment. Now, I won’t say that this isn’t entirely true. Do I want all those things? Yes. My commitment, however, is generally not one to be questioned.
I have stuck through jobs working 50+ hours a week while not being compensated for overtime or comp time. I was overqualified, underpaid, and underappreciated. It was only after my friends and coworkers began pointing out that I was being taken advantage of did I begin to think about walking away. Even still, it was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make. While I viewed my work ethic as a commitment to my job and how I could leverage myself to climb the ladder, I had become everyone's favorite workhorse and the one they couldn’t afford to lose had I been given that promotion.
Fast forward one year to today. After coming to work at Boomer Consulting, Inc., I had to adjust to life at a company where culture is so highly valued and balancing work and life is continually embedded into your daily life. You would think it would be easy, but for me it is still a constant struggle. We live in an age where we are constantly connected, with social media, email, text messaging and video calls being so easily accessible from your phone. We can walk around with our offices in the palm of our hands. Now, for many turning off work at 5 pm is easy. 5 pm is a distinct line where work ends and life begins, but when your office can go with you anywhere, where does that line really lie? One thing I have learned about myself is that no matter how irrational, unproductive or inconvenient it might be, leaving work undone opens up my mind to thoughts of second guessing, imperfection and guilt. Did I remember to send this? Did I remember to move that? Did I set up that call with that client? For me, turning off work is a constant struggle, regardless of how highly valued a work – life balance is.
Now you’ll remember me saying how lucky I am to work somewhere I am encouraged, challenged, and coached. In an age where we are so highly connected and working in an industry that runs itself around the billable hour, a work – life balance is almost unheard of for many months of the year. Finding this balance in my own life, while still a struggle, has been so rewarding that I feel the need to share my journey with my peers.
One of my first coaching moments at Boomer Consulting, Inc. came for me at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon in April. The realization that my mind didn’t turn off at 5 pm and large scale requests held the same urgency at 8 am on Monday as they did at 4:45 pm on a Friday afternoon was a learning moment for our financial team. Up until this point, I took my computer home every night and I had downloaded my email and calendar onto my phone. If my boss needed something, I was ready. Whether it was 5 am or 11 pm, I was ready. After sending the requested information to our CEO, Jim, that night after 11 pm, I remember the discontent I felt within myself. I had missed out on a date night with my husband and even though he wasn’t upset, there was a moment of disappointment. Over the weekend, I expected to see a response to the hard work I had put into the project and when it didn’t come, resentment was all that remained.
On Monday morning, I was immediately greeted with gratitude from the other members of our executive team that had reviewed the project. After realizing that I spent most of my night working, Jim and I set some time aside to discuss an upfront working contract. We came to two solid guidelines:
- If the task or information needed is urgent, Jim will tell me.
- I have the option to say "Not right now" and set a deadline for when the task is to be completed.
After talking with Jim, I think we learned a lot about how we work with each other. Which has led to learning about how the team works together as a whole. I’m learning that unless otherwise stated, any request of my time is not urgent and that if I need to put something off until another day, the company will go on. I’m learning how to say “Not right now” and how to set a deadline without sacrificing my home life. I'm learning that my computer can stay in the office a little more and my phone no longer needs to send me an alert when an email comes in. In May, I took my first true vacation with my husband. While I may have broken the “No Work” rule by checking my email at 5 am while waiting for the day to begin a couple times (what can I say, I'm a creature of habit), I was able leave my work behind. Unfinished, imperfect, and knowingly piling up, my work was waiting for me when I got back... and wouldn't you know, the company still functioned as if I had been there all along.
I am a millennial. I know I am lucky to have a job with benefits that everyone my age dreams about, but its not without its pitfalls. I'm usually over-committed to everything. Being constantly connected and having flexible work arrangements had created an environment that was setting me up for burnout and failure. Having to realign my thinking to see that even everyone's favorite workhorse needs a break has opened my eyes to all the life I had been missing out on.
I still struggle with putting my work aside to enjoy life. It's a constant learning experience, so stayed tuned for the rest of my journey.